When Joe Biden ran for president in 2020, he had all the advantages of a non-incumbent president in a year when everything went wrong.
Biden launched a cautious and disciplined campaign around a simple message: he will end the pandemic, rebuild the economy and restore normalcy. After the chaos of the Trump era, this was enough.
Governance is more difficult. The pandemic fueled by the delta variant of the coronavirus is not over. The economic recovery is accompanied by worrying inflation, shortages and supply chain issues. In public opinion polls, the vast majority of Americans stated that they believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.
No wonder, then, that Biden’s popularity It fell too badly. His job approval rate in the Gallup poll fell by 14 percentage points, from 56% in June to 42% at the end of October—making him less popular during his tenure than any other recent president. Only Donald Trump is an exception.
“We are in a terrible political, economic and COVID environment,” Biden’s polling expert John Anzaron told me last week. “Sometimes it takes a new year to press the reset button.”
Republican pollster David Winston elaborated on this topic. “The expectations afterwards are high [Biden’s] Election,” he said. “People expect the COVID to end; no. Voters think they are in a normal election, but this is not the case. “
“Biden’s problem is not just that something went wrong; it just seems that nothing is right.”
The president often ran into trouble during his first year in office, and some people managed to recover. Ronald Reagan plunged the economy into a severe recession in 1981 and lost 26 seats in the House of Representatives the following year, but after the economy recovered, he was re-elected by a landslide. Bill Clinton presided over the disastrous first year and lost control of Congress in 1994. He only mastered the art of bipartisan negotiations and won re-election in 1996.
The challenge for Biden is to find his own path to recovery-a way to achieve what his opinion poll experts call “reset”.
The first step is to resolve the two major issues that the president promised to resolve first: the pandemic and the economy.Biden focuses on These priorities, But his progress was slower and more bumpy than many voters expected.
After months of delay, the House of Representatives passed his $1 trillion infrastructure plan in a bipartisan vote on Friday, which gave him a boost. The president wisely announced that he planned to invite Democrats and Republicans to the signing ceremony. This was an elegant way to remind voters that he successfully persuaded members of the two parties to cooperate.
But he still needs Democrats in the House and Senate to pass another cornerstone of his legislative agenda, a $1.75 trillion social spending bill that is not a bipartisan at all.
At the same time, he has other things he can do: find a kitchen table problem that he can solve, or at least show voters that he is working hard.
People are dissatisfied with the increase in gasoline prices.Biden spends time in Europe Last week urged oil exporters to increase production. This was an uncoordinated action in a trip that ostensibly focused on climate change, and oil producers did not immediately respond-but it is still wise politics.
Similarly, Biden and his assistants announced several actions aimed at alleviating supply chain problems, including maintaining the port Los Angeles and Long Beach Open 24 hours a day, and fines are imposed on shippers who do not move containers fast enough. These measures alone are unlikely to solve the problem, but if the bottleneck is relieved, the president will be able to point out the help he has done.
There is another suggestion: under-commitment and over-delivery. Biden often does the opposite and declares victory prematurely. This habit caused his position in the polls to be eroded.
For example, on July 4, Biden held a celebration at the White House to celebrate his belief that the COVID pandemic is coming to an end. He described this moment as “declaring our independence from the deadly virus.”
The Delta variant quickly soared, taking away the president’s victory and putting the economy in trouble.
On Friday, after the Labor Department announced strong employment data for October, the president once again declared victory and said that his policies are commendable.
“Our economy is starting to work,” he said. “This recovery is faster, stronger, fairer, and broader than almost anyone has predicted.”
He acknowledged that inflation is still a problem, but said his social spending bill will “reduce inflationary pressures” by lowering the prices of childcare, medical care and prescription drugs. In an economy with a labor shortage, he needs a little luck to realize this prediction.
Despite these problems, Biden’s recovery is still possible, even in a polarized country.
Republican opinion poll expert Whit Ayres said: “Republicans have decided that because Biden and the Democrats are in power, the country will fall into hell, but independents, especially Democrats, are more driven by events. “
“If the COVID is brought under control, the economy starts to buzz, the inflation rate drops, and Congress actually passes part of the Biden agenda, then these voters will become more positive about the country’s direction.”
Biden has launched a comeback campaign before. His 2020 presidential campaign was declared dead more than once; he bounced back to win the nomination and election.
Anzalon said that he and his assistants said they had a straightforward plan: to promote “one of the strongest Democratic messages ever.”
Biden’s instinct is to lower his head and work forward. It worked for him before. We will see if he can overcome the difficulties again.